Confidence soars, hope floats in Kerala

With the state going to the polls on Friday, all three fronts exude confidence in strong performances.
A sea of workers belonging to major political fronts converged at Peroorkada, Thiruvananthapuram, during ‘kalashakottu’ of election campaigning
A sea of workers belonging to major political fronts converged at Peroorkada, Thiruvananthapuram, during ‘kalashakottu’ of election campaigning Photo | B P Deepu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After a high-voltage campaign, the Lok Sabha elections are finally here. As Kerala goes to the polls in a single phase on Friday, all three fronts are optimistic about improving on their performances in the last election.

With three different kinds of anti-incumbency factors in play — against the Union government, state government and against sitting MPs in a majority of the constituencies — the fronts have enough reasons to hope for a favourable verdict. In an election where the Left is primarily banking on the sentiments against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the sway of Muslim votes and the consolidation of community votes would prove the most crucial factor.

However, the biggest takeaway from this Lok Sabha polls would be a major shift in the character of Kerala politics. This could well be the first election where the bi-polar politics of Kerala has transformed into a real tri-polar fight, with BJP candidates vying for top slots, that too for all the right reasons, in at least five constituencies where the party hopes to either win or finish second or even sabotage the probable winner.

This election being crucial for all three fronts, the Congress-led UDF hopes to repeat its 19/20 performance of 2019 while LDF, going by internal assessments, is confident of substantially improving its tally, whereas the BJP hopes to make it big in at least two constituencies.

Having claimed a Left wave across the state right from the beginning, the LDF has gradually settled into a more realistic expectation. Both CPM and CPI leaderships claim a pro-Left trend in all 20 constituencies and is confident of overcoming the anti-incumbency factor. The CPM is looking forward to victories in a minimum of four to five seats. The party calculates Attingal, where V Joy takes on Congress’s Adoor Prakash and BJP’s V Muraleedharan, as one of the most probable seats. “We have a clear edge in Palakkad, Alathur, Thrissur, Mavelikkara and Attingal. In Vadakara, there were certain issues, but now there’s good support from women voters. In the final round, we hope to come up trumps in Kannur, Chalakudy, Kollam and Pathanamthitta too,” said a senior CPM leader.

Compared to 2019, when the Left faced negative votes from the Hindu community over Sabarimala and a Muslim consolidation over the Rahul Gandhi factor, this time around, there’s only the anti-incumbency factor against the state government. The LDF however claims that it has overcome anti-incumbency and is banking heavily on an anti-BJP sentiment to gain ground. Noticeably, many feel the Left’s allegation of a Congress-League-BJP nexus is more on the lines of an anticipatory bail, in case things don’t turn out as planned.

Meanwhile, UDF has managed to make a mark in the final phase of campaigning. The front claims to have a favourable situation in all 20 seats. Secretly, though, they admit certain regional factors could throw a spanner in the works. “In Attingal and Palakkad, there are certain issues with both the candidates and with campaigning. Similarly, the Twenty20 factor, in addition to the Jacobite and Orthodox support to the Left, could prove costly for the candidate in Chalakudy,” pointed out a Congress leader.

The Congress is sure that, unless there are last-minute undercurrents, the Muslim votes will remain with UDF.

In Thiruvananthapuram, where BJP finished second in 2014 and 2019, Rajeev Chandrasekhar is clearly a strong challenger. Both UDF’s Shashi Tharoor and LDF’s Pannian Raveendran have stated that the BJP would be the main opponent, thus acknowledging its crucial role. Similarly in Thrissur, where Suresh Gopi takes on CPI’s ex-minister V S Sunil Kumar and Congress’s K Muraleedharan, there are reasons to believe that BJP could occupy at least the second slot, if not the first. Similarly, in Attingal, Palakkad and Pathanamthitta, besides Kottayam where BDJS leader Thushar Vellapally is contesting, the votes polled by NDA candidates will be a decisive factor.

With the three fronts having left no stone unturned to prevent a leakage of votes, the polling day is when the undercurrents, vote-trading, and final strategies would find manifestation.

Poll planks

  • Citizenship Amendment Act was a major poll plank for the Left

  • Two anti-incumbency factors — anti-Modi and anti-Pinarayi — would prove crucial

  • In some constituencies, there’s anti-incumbency against sitting MPs too

  • Both the LDF and the UDF hope to woo Muslim minorities, as sway of Muslim votes will be the deciding factor

  • The BJP hopes to make it big in at least two constituencies — Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur — while also nurturing hopes in at least five seats

  • PM Narendra Modi addressed voters in close to 10 constituencies in a high-profile campaign

  • The LS campaign began as a fight between LDF and UDF over CAA. Towards the fag end, there was a verbal duel between Rahul Gandhi and Pinarayi Vijayan

  • The fake video allegation in Vadakara led to a legal fight between CPM’s K K Shailaja and Congress’s Shafi Parambil

  • In Thiruvanamthapuram, UDF’s Shashi Tharoor and NDA’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar were locked in a legal fight over alleged remarks

This could well be the first election where the bi-polar politics of Kerala has transformed into a real tri-polar fight, with BJP candidates vying for top slots

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